Friday, May 4, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He once again tried to pretend he barely knew Paul Manafort.

In his address to the NRA tonight, Trump seized on a report that the judge in the Paul Manafort criminal case was asking prosecutors questions about whether the special counsel had legal authority to prosecute these particular charges. Regardless of which branch of the Justice Department ends up carrying the prosecution forward, Manafort is facing hundreds of years in prison on dozens of counts including conspiracy against the United States, fraud, tax evasion, and lying about his status as the agent of a foreign government.  

(Manafort's business associate and Trump campaign colleague, Rick Gates, has already pleaded guilty to similar charges and is cooperating with the Russia probe.)

Trump's response was that Manafort was a "nice guy." But, perhaps remembering that Manafort stands a good chance of spending the rest of his life in prison, Trump immediately followed that remark by insisting that he barely knew Manafort, who had worked for Trump for "literally, like what, a couple months."

In reality, Manafort worked for the Trump campaign for five months, most of that as Trump's campaign manager. Trump has known Manafort, who owns a Trump Tower apartment, long before that: their relationship goes back almost 40 years. Manafort's companies worked for Trump during the 80s and 90s, but Manafort's main business--essentially, a political consultant to brutal dictators--took him to the Ukraine, where he served as an advisor to the Russian puppet government of Viktor Yanukovych. When that regime was overthrown in a popular uprising in 2014, Manafort attempted to return to U.S. politics, but didn't succeed until he offered to work for Trump's campaign for free. 

During the convention, while Manafort was in charge of the Trump campaign, it demanded that the Republican Party weaken its stance on Russia's annexation of part of the Ukraine.

So what?

  • People with nothing to hide don't bother lying about their relationships, even with accused criminals.
  • Trump may be the first person in history to even pretend that Paul Manafort is a "nice guy."
  • Presidents and presidential candidates are responsible for the people they put in positions of authority.